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VOL. 128 | NO. 143 | Wednesday, July 24, 2013

White Paper: Young Alumni are Unique Givers

By Andy Meek

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When it comes to charitable donations, members of the so-called millennial generation are in a unique class of givers.

Being somewhere between 18 and 35 years old, their memories of paying high college tuition costs and loans may still be fresh – they may still, in fact, be paying those bills. Others may not yet have the well-paying jobs they studied for immediately out of college.

For these and other reasons, Memphis creative agency Bigfish has put together a white paper titled “Developing Young Alumni as a Fundraising Asset” that analyzes these and other qualities of that demographic.

Among the paper’s other findings: millennials are part of a generation that’s generally resistant to forms of marketing like mailers and phone calls. They want to know how their gift will be used, that it will make an impact and they are driven by a strong social conscience.


“We began noticing these characteristics of young alumni in our work with national Greek organizations,” the paper reads. “Our hunches, intuition, and the personal experiences of our clients and ourselves led us to do further research.

“A Bigfish millennial employee also conducted an informal poll on social media of her friends by asking, ‘Do you give to your alma mater? Why or why not?’”

Addie McGowan, a client engagement manager at Bigfish, said the white paper came about organically. In talking with some potential clients in the higher education development world, the same problems seemed to be cropping up.

Many of those organizations, she said, struggle with building connections with young alumni.

“I realized that a platform we’ve developed at Bigfish could really help tap into the social power of young alumni,” she said. “So, I began to poll friends and classmates on Facebook and Twitter. The interest in the question was pretty significant. I had about 35 responses from young alumni who clearly wanted to be heard. I did some more research to see how my anecdotal findings measure up against more thorough research, and found they are consistent with the study referenced in the paper. A white paper seemed like the best way to report what we found.”

The paper has some good news. Young alumni, it seems, are willing to give – as long as they’re interacted with in a way that correctly taps into the “collective giving power” of the demographic.

There are several points to make – donors want a choice. Institutions should “rethink their ask strategy.” And young alumni should be encouraged to get their friends involved.

The paper includes several suggestions for each of those points. Regarding choice, for example, donors could be allowed to browse for specific funds to donate to.

“I hope this gets the conversation started about how development strategies can be tweaked to resonate more with millennials.”

–Addie McGowan
Client engagement manager, Bigfish

Young alumni also should be sought out where they’re already spending their time, on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

“I hope this gets the conversation started about how development strategies can be tweaked to resonate more with millennials,” McGowan said. “We are happy to give, (we) just require some transparency on how our money will be used. The white paper shows that giving increases when millennials understand the impact their gift will have, when they can give online, and when their friends get involved.”

The paper is available at www.gobigfishgo.com/alumnipoll, where anyone interested can enter their email address and name to get a copy.

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